Ballet Preview: Artistry under wraps

Tales of Beatrix Potter

The Royal Ballet Royal Albert Hall

A scamp, flap and waddle pushes the limits of performers encased in duck heads and cumbersome animal clothing. As we watch Fox chasing Jemima through the hollyhocks, it is hard to believe that behind this image of talking animals are svelte and elegant bodies. The choreographer, Frederick Ashton, initially declined to stage the tales as ballet, claiming that people would say, "the old boy has gone gaga." That is how the show may send anyone looking for the finer points of ballet. Beatrix Potter had a marketing head-start of 25 years on Walt Disney because she secured the rights to Peter Rabbit in 1903. A self-made doll followed as did board games and wallpaper, yet here the comparison with Disney ends. Although Peter Rabbit has become the world's best-selling children's book, with around 1 million copies sold every year in 20 languages, the rights being secured under one person has meant the images of Peter Rabbit and co have never become as ubiquitous as Mickey and Minnie. They retain their other- world and childish enigma which secures misty-eyed enjoyment for adults and children alike.

At the Royal Festival Hall, Embankment, London SE1. Tickets pounds 12-pounds 40. 0171-304 4000.

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